In Memoriam: Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose

barrington-watson-portrait-of-valerie-bloomfield-1962

The National Gallery of Jamaica blog has just announced the death of artist and educator Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose (1934-2017):

The National Gallery of Jamaica has received the sad news of the passing renowned painter, sculptor and art educator Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose on Tuesday January 9, 2017. Born in Glasgow Scotland in 1934, she attended the Glasgow School of Art from 1953 to 1957 and later the Jordanhill Teacher Training College also in Glasgow.  In 1980, she   received her Master of Fine Arts Degree from the American University. In 2012 she was conferred with a honourary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) Degree by the University of the West Indies.

She made Jamaica her home in 1959 and taught at several schools including Jamaica College, Wolmer’s Girls School and The Priory School. At Wolmer’s Girls School in particular, she is remembered as an inspiring teacher who motivated a generation of young women to pursue art as a career rather than a mere pastime.  Bloomfield-Ambrose also taught anatomy, life-drawing and painting at the Jamaica School of Art from 1970 – 1979 where she nurtured and honed the skills of many of Jamaica’s renowned artists, such as Hope Brooks, Carol Crichton and Philip Supersad, among others.  She also lectured at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. and Baltimore’s Maryland Institute.

Mrs Bloomfield-Ambrose played an active role in the burgeoning Post-Independence performing arts movement in Jamaica. She was an actress, appearing in numerous productions in the 1960s and 1970s and had acted opposite well-known actors such as Lloyd Reckord and also served as a set designer for many stage productions. It was in the 1960s however, that she began focusing on her own artistic career.  She initially shared a studio with Ruth Cohn and Moira Small with whom she had her first Jamaican exhibition in 1964. She later shared a studio with painter Graham Davis in 1971 and went on to represent Jamaica in the International Women’s Year Exhibition in 1975.

Though a classically trained painter and sculptor, her work was never considered to be traditional and she established herself with an unmistakable sense of realism and ability to capture likenesses. Her use of pastel tones to capture the unique light of the Caribbean was noted as having embodied the energy of the artistic milieu of the 1970s. Her talents made her one of Jamaica’s most popular portraitists.

valerie-bloomfield-portrait-1969-1971

Known for her quiet intimate portraits that captured the relatability of her subjects, some of her most endearing paintings were the portraits she did of friends Barrington Watson, Kofi Kayiga and John Maxwell.  Mrs Bloomfield –Ambrose also painted the portraits  of Prime Minister Michael Manley, University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Vice-chancellors A. Z. Preston, Sir Alister McIntyre, the Honorable Rex Nettleford and Professor E. Nigel Harris. She also created the iconic sculpture of UWI founder Sir Phillip Sherlock. [. . .]

For full obituary article, see https://nationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/in-memoriam-valerie-bloomfield-ambrose/

[Painting above: “Portrait” by Valerie Bloomfield-Ambrose. NGJ.]

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